Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT SEVEN [VFA-87]
On the first of February 1968, The Golden Warriors were established as Attack Squadron EIGHT SEVEN, the first to fly the A-7B Corsair II. The first Commanding Officer of the Golden Warriors was Commander Tom Dunlop and the squadron was stationed at NAS Cecil Field, Florida.
On 4 March 1969, the squadron flew its first combat missions from USS Ticonderoga (CVA 14), striking enemy targets in South Vietnam. In August 1970, VA 87 joined Air Wing SIX and made twelve deployments aboard three different carriers, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42), USS America (CV 66) and USS Independence (CV 62).
In the fall of 1973, The Golden Warriors embarked onboard USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CV 42) to protect U.S. interests during the Arab-Israeli War. Transitioning to the improved A-7E Corsair II, the squadron returned in October 1975 to the Middle East following the assassination of the American Ambassador to Lebanon and assisted in the evacuation of U.S. citizens from that country. During the Iranian hostage crises and the Israeli-Syrian disputes of 1981, VA-87 deployed to the region for 195 days. One year later the Golden Warriors were back in the fray, supporting U.S. peacekeeping operations in Lebanon for 172 days.
In October 1983, The Golden Warriors participated in Operation URGENT FURY, protecting American citizens from political strife in Grenada. During the same deployment, VA 87 participated in strikes against Syria in the on-going United Nations effort to stabilize the Middle East.
On 24 October 1986, The Golden Warriors transitioned to the McDonnell Douglas FA-18A Hornet and were redesignated Strike Fighter Squadron EIGHT SEVEN. Leaving Carrier Air Wing SIX, the Golden Warriors, embarked in USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) as temporary members of Carrier Air Wing ONE. In October 1987, VFA 87 joined the world's most powerful sea-going air wing, Carrier Air Wing EIGHT (CVW-8), onboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and deployed on 30 December 1988 for the first time with the FA-18A Hornet. On 28 December 1990, following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the Golden Warriors deployed for Operation DESERT STORM, flying 629 sorties over 43 days of intense combat to liberate Kuwait.
The Golden Warriors, equipped with the newer FA-18C, deployed to the Adriatic and Red Seas from March to September 1993 flying hundreds of missions in support of United Nations Operations DENY FLIGHT, PROVIDE COMFORT and SOUTHERN WATCH.
Embarked for the last time in USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), VFA 87 returned in March 1995 to Southwest Asia for a month to participate in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Following a hasty transit to the Adriatic, the Golden Warriors spent four months flying combat sorties over the increasingly embattled former Yugoslavia. On 30 August 1995, the Golden Warrior jets were the first to strike Bosnian-Serb targets as the DELIBERATE FORCE campaign commenced in the dark morning hours. The Golden Warriors achieved unprecedented success in difficult targeting scenarios through expert use of "smart weapon" technology.
VFA 87 completed another successful deployment in October of 1997. The Golden Warriors conducted several training exercises with NATO nations from the deck of USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67). CVW 8 headed to the Adriatic to fly over Bosnia-Herzegovina in support of Operation DELIBERATE GUARD. CV67/CVW 8 then transited the Suez Canal and steamed through the Red Sea and into the Persian Gulf and again participated in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH.
The logistics preparations required to move 12 aircraft, millions of dollars worth of equipment, and over 200 personnel from NAS Cecil Field to NAS Oceana, were mind-boggling.
After leaving Norfolk on March 26, the Golden Warriors, on board USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71), steamed across the Atlantic. T.R. and CVW-8 had been tasked to support NATO forces in Operation Allied Force. Operating under very frustrating conditions-constantly changing schedules and load plans-Golden Warrior Hornets launched off the pointy end of the ship dozens of times a day, with every pylon carrying ordnance. . In a display of the Hornet's unmatched versatility, VFA-87 launched HARM (anti-radiation missiles), Laser Maverick air-to-ground missiles, and Joint Stand-Off Weapons.
June 1999 saw an end to the hostilities in the battle- weary former Republic of Yugoslavia. The Golden Warriors, along with the rest of Carrier Air Wing Eight and the USS Theodore Roosevelt Battle Group, supported NATO during Operation ALLIED FORCE. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, the superbly maintained fleet of "War Party" F/A-18s had dropped 428,000 pounds of ordnance from Kosovo's beleaguered skies in just 68 days.
With the Balkan peace process underway at last, the Golden Warrior officers and sailors focused their efforts on the next (and eagerly anticipated) task - a week of relaxation in the "jewel" of the Mediterranean, sunny Palma de Mallorca, Spain. As the week drew to a close, the mighty Theodore Roosevelt and CVW-8 set sail once again for the calm waters of the Adriatic, recharged for another two weeks of flight operations, now in support of NATO ground troops in Kosovo helping forge peace for its dislocated citizens. The waning days of June proved to be busy ones for the War Party. The Golden Warriors sent three jets, six pilots, and a small, but capable maintenance crew to Decimomannu, Sardinia in support of a German Air Force training detachment. While there, the Golden Warrior aviators enjoyed the unique opportunity to fly air-to-air training missions against a variety of German and Italian aircraft, including F-4 Phantoms, F-104 Star Fighters, and, most exciting of all, MiG-29 Fulcrums. At the conclusion of the detachment, the German MiG-29s and F-4s treated the entire crew of the T.R. to an unprecedented fly-by off the coast of Sardinia. A division each of Fulcrums and Phantoms flew into the carrier "break" pattern and flew low approaches to the deck of the T.R.
From 30 June to 5 July, the men and women of VFA-87 enjoyed five days of intense Riviera sunshine, shopping and fine French cuisine, taking time out on the 4th to enjoy the hospitality of the French people and celebrate the occasion of America's 223rd year of independence. Then began the voyage towards the Suez Canal and the Persian Gulf to participate in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq.
The crowning achievement for the Golden Warrior Maintenance Department came on 9 December 1999 with the announcement by Commander, Strike-Fighter Wing, U.S. Atlantic Fleet that VFA-87 had clinched the nomination for the coveted Secretary of Defense "Phoenix" Maintenance Award. As this article was being prepared for print, we learned that Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet had also given VFA-87 his endorsement for this prestigious award. The outstanding men and women of the VFA-87 maintenance department performed flawlessly throughout the entire year in every aspect of aircraft maintenance, pursuing the highest level of excellence during pre-deployment training and during the unprecedented JTG 99-2 deployment aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71). During combat operations in support of Operations ALLIED FORCE and SOUTHERN WATCH, the Golden Warriors amassed numerous milestones, completing 771 combat sorties, logging 1935 flight hours, and dropping over 430,000 pounds of ordnance -- all while maintaining an impressive 98 percent sortie completion rate.
VFA-87 is sometimes referred to as War Party, as another nickname besides Golden Warriors.
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